Ethics Focus: Signing Documents and Pleadings

You may recall from past posts what paralegals can and can’t do for their attorneys and what, in general, constitutes unauthorized practice of law (UPL)  — those things that a paralegal cannot do for you.  Today it is my honor to share with you a guest article from Vicki Voisin, ACP, that closely considers one of those responsibilities that cannot be delegated to your paralegal — signing.  Written for the paralegal audience, this article will still drive home the point and provide attorneys with valuable suggestions for alternative solutions in sticky situations. The Ethics of Signing Documents and Pleadings By Vicki Voisin, ACP Consider this scenario: You have been employed as a paralegal for the same attorney for several years. He happens to be out of town taking depositions. A deadline looms…a document absolutely has to be filed with the Court by 5:00 o’clock. No problem, you think. Your boss … Continue reading

What? You don’t have a license to practice as a paralegal?

A couple of recent events led me to prepare this final section on the overview of the paralegal profession.  Namely, clarification of formal requirements as they pertain to paralegal licensure and paralegal regulation. Not long ago I was talking with an attorney friend, answering her questions about the paralegal profession, the type of support paralegals provide, and professional requirements.  As was the case then, I sometimes find attorneys are under the impression that paralegals have similar licensing and reporting requirements.  While this may be due, in part, to the close relation between the professions, it may also be partly due to inaccurate information published for the public. You see, last week I received a link to a web page providing information and resources on the paralegal profession and paralegal careers.  The page included links to [mostly] credible sources, which did provide accurate information about the profession. However, the information on … Continue reading

Paralegal Do’s and Don’ts: What can (and can’t) a paralegal do for you

Just knowing how the paralegal profession came about (the reason for its development) provides much insight into the role of paralegals. Similarly, the paralegal definition itself explains the type of support paralegals provide. Knowing these things, however, stops short of explaining what a paralegal can (and can’t) do for you. Paralegals: What do they do By knowing the definition of a paralegal, you know what paralegals do – they provide substantive legal support to attorneys. I know, it still doesn’t really detail what they do. That’s understandable, though. The definition is relatively broad because paralegals perform a broad range of tasks. When I talk to attorneys who don’t know what they can delegate to their paralegal, I tell them to think about all the things they (the attorneys) do throughout the day. That’s what their paralegal can do. In essence, a paralegal can perform any task an attorney normally does … Continue reading

The Paralegal Profession: [Almost] everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

When you work as a paralegal in a law firm or legal department, everyone knows your purpose; after all, they hired you to do the job. However, since I began offering paralegal services to attorneys on a full-time basis, I found that MANY attorneys, especially younger attorneys, don’t actually know the paralegal’s role. Some attorneys will come straight out and say, ‘I don’t know what a paralegal could do for me; I don’t even know what they do.’ Others hesitantly admit, with a slight twinge of guilt, that they’re not really sure of the paralegal’s role. At first, I was surprised. But the more I thought about it I realized it should be no surprise at all — after all, they don’t teach you about paralegal support in law school any more than they teach you how to start, build, and operate your law practice. As such, it only makes … Continue reading